29 December 2016

2016 Christmas Year In Review

Easter Sunday 

It is the fifth day of Christmas, and it's time for the annual year in review.  

From Family Photo Shoot by Ashleigh Coleman Photographer

My babies don't have baby books, I've never owned a scrapbook, and so I blog. Or, I used to.  At least I can keep this one tradition going: the year in review.  ;)  

2016 has been a less-than-awesome year for famous-in-the-80s celebrities, and it was pretty unpleasant for establishment Democrats.  But, we're neither of those things, so we're doing okay.  

We are still loving our house in Sherwood Forest (actually so named), which backs up to the undeveloped flood plain, the Hundred Acre Wood (my name for it I made up).  The boys (and some girls too) are out there a lot, tromping around, dragging dead wood into various arrangements that for them have meaning.  We've moved the dining room table once per year since we moved in, and we think we've found its permanent home, so that's big news and good news too.  We hope to stay in this house until the children have to go through our things here.  We did join a new church this year - First Presbyterian Jackson - and that has been a great blessing for our family.  We do miss our sweet people at Immanuel Pres, our old church, but God has been good in his transition, as He is all the time.  

From Rehearsal Dinner in NOLA for the wedding of our dear friends, Rachel and James.  

Paul's job as Director of Engineering for Flowood is really good to him.  It keeps him outside about half the time, and it never bores him.  This is mostly because there is always another problem to fix, and fixing problems is Paul's favorite hobby.  He also enjoys tutoring - high school science, math, and standardized test preparation.  Of course, I guess that's still just problem solving.   I can say this about him because he's mine - Paul is a model patriarch.  As I type, he's playing mario kart with the children and showing them no mercy.  Paul reads aloud to the people, wakes up in the middle of the night with the still-once-a-week-up toddler, and dances with me in the kitchen.  That's usually my idea though.  Paul has taken back up the flute of late, and we were comforted to know that the thousands of dollars and hours spent in his youth did not go wasted.  He recently fixed a lawn mower engine and is very proud.  

Book:  The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs (for whom he might leave me if she was still with us...) 
TV Show:  Stranger Things 
Music:  Abigail Washburn (I don't know who that is)
Movie: La Grande Bellezza 
New Skill: Spoke Shaving 
School Subject:  Physics (still) 
Thing to Wear:  Underwear (he's so funny).  
Food:  Anything Ann Lowrey cooks (isn't he just charming). 
Color: Green 
Activity:  Small Engine Repair 

House Concert at Brooks's and Carrie's House.  

My plate remains full, though it does feel like I have a bit more margin than I did a few years ago.  Margin is my favorite buzzword this year for sure.  I am serving as the Academic Counselor at St. Augustine School (come to an information meeting!), and teaching Logic, Latin, and some English Grammar.  Diagramming sentences is the bomb, parsing makes me happy, and determining the validity of syllogisms is just delightful. More importantly, introducing all those to middle school students makes my heart sing.  Being the Academic Counselor means I work with our administration to pick curriculum, I work with teachers to implement curriculum and determine what we're aiming for our students to master, how to get there, and how to measure it.  It's challenging work, and though I didn't predict it would be my path, I am ever so glad it has been.  I get to be at home on M/W/F, which is a great balance for me personally and for our family.  I did get to have one fancy dinner party (I love a menu card) and a lot more non-fancy suppers this year than I have the previous three years while the school was getting on its feet, which was a huge win.  My goals for 2017 include writing more and engaging more fully with our city.  


Book:  A book of Amy Hempel short stories 
TV Show:  The Crown, for sure
Movie:  Lala Land
Music:  Clay Parker and Jodi James
New Skill: Tuning out political insanity
School Subject:  Logic
Thing to Wear:  a smile
Food:  Apple Walnut Dressing (I tried it for a dinner party, and I can't stop making it).   
Color:  Light Blue 
Activity: Watching The West Wing with Paul William Forster.  

Ada Brooks is 12.5 and five foot three and really excited to eventually be taller than I am, which is not going to happen on my watch - heavens.  Ada loves her friends at school and church, and she loves baking - for anyone who will let her. She's in the school's running club this year, which is not her favorite, but it's good for her.  In school, she's taking Latin 2, Logic (from her mean mother), and Medieval History, which is pretty fun, as well as Algebra I, English, and Art.  She knows way more about the Popes than I do, for sure.  Ada has become quite the competent babysitter for my people and a few other adorable folks.  She blesses her family and all those who know her, and she's rapidly approaching the level of my best friend.  

Book:  The Book Thief 
TV Show:  Psych 
Movie:  Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them  
Music:  All sorts.  (she's figuring out her groove)   
New Skill: Calligraphy
School Subject: Logic (be still my heart).  
Thing to Wear: Blue Jeans

Career Aspiration:  Architect
Food:  Pizza 
Color:  Gray
Activity: Baking 

Eason is in the fourth grade at St. Augustine School, which has been fun transition for him into bigger work load and harder things.  He's in his first year of Latin study, and I'm not teaching him, which has been so fun to be uninvolved and watch his Latin grow.  Eas is very athletic, but not in a sports-y way - more in a scaling the nearest smooth boulder kind of way.  Good thing we're low on boulders in Mississippi.  He loves the woods and asked for (and received) camping gear for his birthday.  Eason's level of extroversion can't be quantified (he'd break the Meyers Briggs; I'm positive).  He reads aloud interesting or funny passages to us so often - just so we can be in on the book he's reading.  When this isn't making us tired, it is endearing him to us even further.  

Book: The Ranger's Apprentice (boo) 
Movie:  Rogue One 
TV Show: Kicking It (it's awful.  I'm showing restraint by even allowing it to be chosen as a favorite, but, then again, it's not my favorites list...  keep telling myself that). 
Music:  Cello Wars by The Piano Guys 
New Skill:  Ripsticking 
School Subject:  History 
Thing to Wear: Blankets (it's a problem.  Underwear and blankets-  his uniform).  
Food:  Homemade Bean Burritos 
Career Aspiration:  Pediatrician.  
Color:  Green
Activity: Play in the creek with his friend Truman.  



Collins is seven and a half, and he's such a funny little guy.  He is as introverted as Eason is extroverted, and it makes him tired to live at our house.  Poor thing.  Collins is in second grade, and especially loves the science and history projects his teacher expertly arranges for him.  He played soccer this fall and loved the defensive side of things, but isn't on his way to the world cup anytime soon.  He picks his friends carefully and does not suffer from a fear of missing out.  Collins is witty and he's a phenomenal sous chef.  I wouldn't trade him for the world.  

Book: Harry Potter (began this year - it's been fun to add him).  
TV Show:  Kicking It 
Movie:  Captain America Civil War 
Music:  The Piano Guys 
New Skill: Calligraphy (his sister has been teaching him - pretty sweet) 
School Subject:  Science 
Thing to Wear: Ole Miss 
Food:  Chocolate Pie 
Color:  Light Blue 
Activity:  Airsoft with Seth.  


Elsa Gray is a mess, a pistol, a character, delightful and spoiled.  She is the fanciest of all the Forsters, and she makes us look like poor little Nancy's boring family in those books.  She adores dress up and pretend play, and we could all listen to her for hours. Until we can't, and then it's time for bed. She says hysterical things all the days, and her hair is always ragamuffin looking in her face (due mostly to the constant donning of and removing of hats, crowns, etc.).  She stole our hearts upon arrival, and she keeps them hidden somewhere very smart, because not one of us has gotten ours back.  

Book:  The Bible (She gets me all to herself for Bible and Catechism at night, and she loves it - be still my heart). 
TV Show:  Little Bear or Daniel Tiger
Movie: Frosty the Snowman and The Grinch. 
Music:  Five Fat Turkeys Are We from school.  
New Skill:  Independent Pottying. (she couldn't come up with a new skill.... But I sure have a favorite).  
School Subject:  Nap time.  (Weirdo).  
Thing to Wear:  My pink Christmas Tree dress.  
Food: beans.  All the beans.   
Color: Pink and Purple.  
Activity:  play with Polly the doll, play memory with Mama

Halloween - A shadow, Merlin, Indiana Jones, and a Ballerina
After the Nutcracker at Thalia Mara.  
Mama took the kiddos to watch the rebels.  
At the Gryphon Games at School!  Go Owls!  
First Day of School.  
Fourth of July. 
Sugar Bowl Watch Party 
The Ballerina and Her Shadow.  
Father's Day.  Best Daddy.  
Ono Island with our dear friends the Tysons.  

16 November 2016

You Can't Fuss With Your Mouth Full

AB's Sweet Potatoes from a couple of years ago. We'll see how the rebels do this weekend before we decide if we want to repeat this design..  ;) 

This year is mine and Paul's eleventh Thanksgiving to be married and the eleventh year we'll gather around our dinner table for a meal full of good things with people who make our hearts sing.  Paul is not a cook, but he's a smashing good conversationalist, and I'm proud to play cohost with him year after year, weekend after weekend, moment after moment.

In the midst of the insanity that has been public American life for 2016, I think it's especially important that we pause and give thanks. That we make a pretty table, and prepare enough food to feed an army, and then gather the army, and then laugh.  We should remember that thanks is nonsensical without an object - and that object is the Creator God of the universe.  We can all sit around and lament America, but, friends, I live in a world in which the question, "Which Microplane makes the most sense to grate the fresh nutmeg?" is actually being pondered. There are a multitude of cheeses, fresh fruits, meats, and chocolate.  And did I mention the cheese?  It is all ridiculous, prodigal, absurd.  And when we let it pass by, or sully it with a lack of gratitude, well, we've entered absurdity from a whole different angle.  We've problems a plenty, but last I checked, our blessings outweighed our problems.  And that's not the case for many in the world today.  So, eat.  You can't fuss with your mouth full.

We're traveling to visit dear friends for Turkey Day proper, but we'd not feel we'd done our filial duty if we didn't host a spread here, so a bunch of extended family are all coming on Sunday Afternoon for a 4:00 meal of epic proportions.

Last year, I ruffled everyone's feathers by having no turkey and none of the traditional sides.  There was some embracing, but mostly the people were displeased.  The men especially fussed - you don't realize how a man likes his traditions until you alter things.  And, then the, "But where are the sweet potatoes?" will cut you to the quick. 

You can view last year's menu, as well as back to 2009, if you, you know, you are in desperate need of Thanksgiving inspiration and have a bunch of time on your hands.  


To Twenty Sixteen:

Pick Up Food 
Prosciutto Cups with Ricotta and Fig filling
Roasted Spiced Pecans
Crostini with Caramelized Onions, Braised Pears, and Whipped Blue Cheese

Cauliflower and Roasted Garlic

Main Dish
Turkey... ;)  I'm still debating what to do.  We've done grilled and liked it.  We've done slow roasted over night in the oven and liked it.  We've done traditional in the oven and liked it.  We've done fried and loved it but hated the mess.

The Side Board

The two standards return and the six in rotation continue...

Cornbread Dressing - My Mama is bringing the dressing. Thank heavens. This is *the* dressing, and we won't ever do anything else, I don't imagine.  It came, I believe, from my paternal grandmother - neither of my grandmothers was  a very good cook (funny isn't it?), though I think both of their mothers were great, and they taught their daughters some things.  Including this dressing.  I think Mama messed with it some when I was growing up, but, it hasn't changed much for sure.  Celery, Onion, Two different cornbreads, pepper out the wazoo, as they say.  Or at least as Mama says.

Sweet Potato Casserole - I'm bringing it back.  Sticking with the half marshmallow, half pecan topping. It reconciles all different view points, and goodness knows we can use some reconciliation.
1) Scalloped Swiss Potato Gratin - I still can't spell it right.  How many p's?  How many l's?  One never knows.  This recipe is a standard in the rotation (not every year but most), and it is one of Paul's and Ma's favorites.

2) Spinach Gratin - My Stepmother is bringing this, and she's simply thrilling in the kitchen, so go team.

3) Salad - Arugula, pears, candied walnuts, goat cheese.  Yes, we're repeating a featured ingredient from an appetizer - pears - but, today in the mail came eight picture perfect Harry and David Pears... and who doesn't obey Harry and David?  If they're still firm on Saturday evening, I"ll poach them a bit.  I did a cider vinaigrette recently for a dinner party that was one of my favorite dressings I've ever made... and I'm certainly using it again.

4) Glazed Carrots - Honey, Butter, Simple Goodness

5) Proper Corn Pudding - The nytimes doesn't win some journalistic prizes, but it does have a great article on Thanksgiving food from each state from a couple of years ago.  I wasn't excited about the Mississippi recipe, but I've never done a proper corn pudding, and the one they published as the recipe from Virginia looks like the real deal.  So, I'm trying it - water bath and all.

6) Butternut, Burrata, Hazelnut Orzo - I'm making this up.  As I go.  But, what the hey - if it flops, we won't be low on food.  And we need a little adventure.  And how cold it flop?  And on and on I go - where I stop, nobody knows.

On The Table

Gravy - Every year, I ask my stepmother for her gravy recipe.  And every year, she dutifully sends it to me.  And every year, hers is better than mine. I'm plotting -I'm going to have all the ingredients ready and require her to make it when she walks in.  Don't tell.

Cranberry Sauce - You know - I've messed with it over the years - ginger, cayenne, kumquats - and its never been bad.  But, I've never thought, "Oh my!  We must never go back to regular ol' cranberry sauce again!"  So, this year, we're doing regular ol' cranberry sauce.  Cranberries, sugar, water, maybe some salt and pepper?

Eason Homemade Pickles - Sweet, Spicy, All The Time

Canned Spiced Peaches - I dare you to make me stop.  Double dog dare you.  I open one can all week... and it will remain this one.

Bread Basket - Rosemary Biscuit Muffins (me) and Sourdough Bread (Stepmother)

Dessert Cart

Honeyed, Salted Chocolate Pie - I saw it somewhere and decided it needed a try.  I'll let you know.

Cheesecake - Stepmother.  Can't wait.

Apple Pie - I've never made an apple pie in my life.  Horrors.  Or, as we Southern women say, Horrahs.  I think it's likely time.  If anyone has a must do, send it on!

Plum Spice Cake - An old family favorite.  I haven't made it in years and years.

It should be a sufficiency, as my dear grandfather used to say.  And hopefully larrupin, as he also used to say.  Regardless, it will be a blessing.

24 August 2016

2015: Christmas Time Review

Ada Brooks
Book:  Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
TV Show:  Fetch with Ruff Ruffman
Movie: Inside Out
Music: The General by Dispatch
New Skill:  Baking
School Subject: Math
Thing to Wear: jeans and a tshirt
Food: Flourless Chocolate Torte
Color: Pink
Activity: working in the kitchen
Memory:  Seeing the Lion King on Broadway with Ba and D and all the food on the trip. 

Book:  E. Aster Bunnymund by William Joyce
TV Show:  Ultimate Spiderman
Movie: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Music: Elvira (by the Oakridge Boys)  or O Come O Come Emmanuel or anything by Pentatonix
New Skill:  Pole Vaulting with a stick he found in the woods called his staff.
School Subject: Math
Thing to Wear: Sumo footy pajamas
Food: Good Beef in General, especially that steak we had in August. 
Color: Blue
Activity: Climbing
Memory:  Watching the Rebels beat Mississippi State and just knowing we beat Alabama and LSU. 

Book:  "All the Magic Treehouses" by Mary Pope Osborne
TV Show:  Odd Squad
Movie: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Music: Christmas Hymns
New Skill:  Reading real live chapter books all by himself
School Subject: Math
Thing to Wear: Sweatpants and an ole miss shirt
Food: Cheese Ravioli
Color: Blue
Activity: Playing with Seth (his bestie who moved away this year)
Memory:  Going to the Beans' new house all by myself and building forts. 

Elsa Gray:
Book:  But Not the Hippopotamus
TV Show:  Sesame Street (Particularly Elmo)
Movie:  The Adventure's of Winnie the Pooh (The only movie she'll sit and watch).
Music: Elmo's World Theme Song
New Skill:  Talking
School Subject: Colors
Thing to Wear: Dresses
Food: Yumby Chocket Tandy
Color: Pink
Activity: Dancing.  Definitely. 

a tiny tidbit

An old family friend of ours just wrote a book, which was based on a compilation of letters her mother wrote while enrolled at Blue Mountain College in the mid 20th century.

My family founded Blue Mountain in the late nineteenth century, and she thought it would be fun for me to write something for the book's dust jacket.

I had a bit of fun with it.  I am thankful for my strong mother and grandmothers, for my strong daughters, and for many southern sisters who have taught me, through many hard lessons, that strength is not about being the loudest or being perceived as important or right.  Strength is wisdom and joy, despite your external circumstances.  It says so right there in the Proverbs, and it says so right there in our lives.

It comes with opening your arms and home and welcoming people into your life - not with building walls to keep them out.

And, it comes with the carrying on of our traditions and our people and passing that on to the next generation.  We are not immortal.  But our names and our recipes and our traditions and our kindnesses will live on long after we are gone.

And that is strength.

Here is what will be on the book: